Worth of all persons

My faith tradition does not have a formal creed. However, we do have what we refer to as Enduring Principles. Our website identifies them this way: “Our Enduring Principles define the essence, heart, and soul of our faith community. They describe the personality of our church as expressed throughout the world.”

These principles provide flexibility in how they are implemented in congregations in various countries throughout the world…but they are basic to who we are.

There are nine of them:

  • Grace and Generosity
  • Sacredness of Creation
  • Continuing Revelation
  • Worth of All Persons
  • All Are Called
  • Responsible Choices
  • Pursuit of Peace (Shalom)
  • Unity in Diversity
  • Blessings of Community

While I think all of them are important, one that has been standing out to me over the last few weeks is “Worth of All Persons.” ALL persons.

It doesn’t matter race…age…ethnicity…culture…sexual orientation…gender identity…political stance…vocation… ALL persons.

I have been deeply disappointed and shocked by comments I’ve seen from individuals as we have been struggling with the issues surrounding the relationships between police and their communities.

I’ve been deeply disappointed and shocked by some of the responses to this administration’s decision to rollback healthcare protections for transgender individuals.

ALL people are of worth. That means all. It doesn’t depend on whether we agree with someone or not.

You don’t have to be part of my faith tradition to believe in these principles. In many ways they are an expansion of what is often called the Golden Rule–a version of which is in every major religion.

We don’t have to agree on everything. We never will–and that’s okay. We need to hear a variety of voices and perspectives. But we cannot continue believing and acting as if a certain group of people is somehow “less than” everyone else.

We will never solve the issues that are tearing us apart until we are willing to truly believe that all people are of worth. ALL people.

All children of God…

I’ve been trying to figure out how to say what I am feeling. Yesterday I unfriended someone on Facebook. I was sorry to do that, but I did so because they posted a meme that was a slam at those who find God through Islam. I cannot and will not tolerate comments against another’s faith journey.

I am a follower of the Way–of the one known as Jesus. That is how I have found my path to the Divine.

But I am not arrogant enough to believe that this is the only path to the Divine. It is my path. But the Divine is bigger than I can comprehend…than any of us can comprehend. As the Apostle Paul (from my tradition) said:

We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us.

But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love. (I Corinthians 13:11-12 The Message)

All religions…all faith traditions…have adherents who allow that tradition to bring out the best in them. Likewise, all religions…all faith traditions…have adherents who use their beliefs to dominate, to attack those who are different.

But at the end of the day, we are all children of God. When we are willing to listen to each other with open minds and open hearts, we can learn more about who God is–and who we are.

The One I worship calls me to share what I have found to be true…but also to listen to what others have found to be true.

Bearing false witness?

Sometimes as I scroll through my FB feed, I find myself just shaking my head and wondering what on earth I can say.

I don’t have a problem with people sharing opinions–there are many things we can have different opinions about. And often as we share those opinions back and forth, we may discover new insights…find out new things about each other…look at the world in a different way.

But there is a difference between sharing opinions and encouraging conspiracy theories! When I see someone sharing something that is described as “the real truth” or a “tell-all documentary” the red flags go up for me. Yes, there may indeed (and often are) different valid interpretations of scientific information…but interpretations that have been vetted and peer reviewed are far different from “they [whoever ‘they’ is] don’t want you to have this truth.”

If you’ve read my blog for very long, you know that I am a follower of the one we call Jesus. What does that have to do with this? Quite a bit, actually.

He showed his followers a new way of life–a one in which they didn’t need to be afraid. Use wisdom in our behaviors, certainly–but not to be fearful of anything and everything–and certainly not to cause others to live in fear.

As an observant Jew, he also lived according to what we call the Ten Commandments–and–this is the important one for me–one of those commandments is to not to bear false witness.

Conspiracy theories are a manifestation of that false witness. They come from living in fear.

I choose to live in trust. Yes, I will research information…yes, I will be wise in the actions I take during this pandemic. But I will not listen to those who claim to have some kind of hidden or secret information that “they” don’t want me to have.

That is not healthy. It is not wise. It is immoral, and I will not condone it.

 

Being prophetic?

What does it mean to be prophetic?

First of all, I’d like to say what (in my opinion) prophecy and being prophetic are not!

Prophecy is not somehow magically looking into the future and seeing what’s going to happen…and prophets are not some kind of sideshow magicians who can do that. That’s a major misunderstanding of the role of the prophets.

Prophets are not people we like being around much of the time. Their words don’t usually align with our comfort zones. Instead they challenge us to leave those places where we are comfortable. They speak truth to power, whether that power is religious or political. They’re not polite. They’re blunt…sometimes to the point of rudeness.

It’s easy to look back at the biblical prophets and nod our heads, saying, “Right on! You tell it like it is!”

However, when it happens to us…in our time…we often respond in the way that Jesus scolded his people about. If it were up to us, we would silence them–and we often try to. Or we accuse them of being mentally disturbed or ill.

So why would anyone take on or accept that role? Because they feel called to it.

They see injustice…see the difference between what could be and what is…hear what we say we believe and how we live–or more often don’t live–those beliefs.

Prophets are usually not found in church…because more often than we would like to think, it’s “church” people who need to be called to accountability.

So who are the prophets we need to be listening to today? These are a few; there are others you might add:

  • Greta Thurnburg, who calls us to care for our environment…
  • Martin Luther King’s words are still prophetic and call us to repentance of our systemic racism…
  • John Pavlovitz calls those of us who are followers of Jesus to live out what we say we believe…
  • Nadia Bolz-Weber, a contemporary theologian whose words resonate with young people…
  • D.S. Leiter and Roger Wolsey–writers of blogs (Assertive Christianity – Leiter and Kissing Fish – Wolsey) that also raise questions about what it means to be a follower of Jesus

We may not like to hear what the prophets are saying to us…but we need them to help us become who we have the potential of becoming.

…for in their welfare resides your welfare.

The title of this blog is a portion of a statement from some counsel given to my faith tradition back in 2007. There is more that precedes it; I’ve talked about that part of it before (dealing with immigrants and refugees) and probably will again–but this time I want to just focus on this phrase.

We’re living in a time and situation that’s unlike anything most of us have ever experienced. The closest we can come to it is looking back at the 1918 pandemic–for most of us, a couple of generations removed.

It’s not an easy time. People are upset and worried about the future–rightfully so. Many have lost loved ones and are mourning–both for the loss and for the fact that they weren’t able to be with them as they died. Children have lost the opportunity to interact with schoolmates–and for some, the closing of schools has also meant the loss of a safe place. Parents are struggling with how to work at home (if that’s what they’re currently doing) while also keeping children occupied. Or if they’re considered essential workers, they’re concerned about child care.

And then there are the many who are essential workers…who are on the front lines of dealing with this pandemic…who worry not just for the people they treat but also for their own and their families’ health.

Mayors and governors are making hard decisions to try to keep people safe. They’re often decisions that no one is happy about…that some feel go too far.

People who were overlooked have become important to us…those in service industries who struggle with surviving on minimum wages…migrants who do the hard work of picking crops…

So what do we do? How do we behave?

We do not live in a bubble. Maybe we used to be able to say that–but nations and people are interconnected now in ways that could not even be imagined in 1918.

And that’s why I think this title phrase is so important.

If…when…we see our interconnectedness, we will see that all people and the jobs they do are important to and for us. We will see the inequities in our own communities and nation…and begin making the changes required to bring justice and equity. We will begin to truly see our brothers and sisters.

This statement is a contemporary stating of the prophets’ call through the ages…and also a contemporary version of what Christians call the Golden Rule–a version of which is found in every major religion.

Our welfare affects the welfare of those around us…and their welfare affects us. We must learn to live that…or we will die.